Professional CDs are recorded uncompressed at a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz at 16 bit (64kbps/channel) and are digital recordings. They are recorded in Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) and stored on Windows computers as WAV files and as AIFF files on Macs. A WAV or AIFF file “ripped” from a CD in one of these formats will playback with the same audio information whether it is on CD or an electronic file. In both instances, hardware is required to convert the digital information to an analog signal. At Thunderstruck Canada, we use a high-end digital-to-audio converter (DAC) and audio interface to process music from both our computer and CD decks out to the theatre's speaker system so you are guaranteed to get the best possible playback.
Sound Quality Explained
The quality of the sound you get from your music begins with the source. You can not take an M4A or MP3 file (most common file formats found online and used for playback devices like iPods) and use software like audacity to convert it to a WAV or AIFF and expect it sound like a professionally recorded track. Both M4A and MP3 use what is called a lossy compression. This is great to pack as many songs onto our iPod and have them sound pretty good but trying to play this across a professional system there will be a big disparity. For instance, a 4:30 minute track in its original WAV format would be about 50MB in size. That same file compressed to MP3 would be a 5MB. In converting that 5MB file back to WAV too much information is lost (why it is called lossy compression) to restore it back to its original form.
To ensure that have the best sounding music for your routines, you need to start with uncompressed WAV or AIFF files that have been sampled at 44.1 kHz at 16 bit (64kbps/channel) or higher. When your source music is edited and/or cut to your specifications, you need to ensure that it is sampled at these levels and saved appropriately. At this point, all we need it that file provided to us and we would prefer an audio file versus receiving it on CD.
Why Do We Prefer Audio Files vs CDs
There is really no need to burn CDs for competition anymore. We can play the same file that you burn to CD via a computer and you will get the same quality playback. The quality of that file whether CD or audio file is solely up to you.
Audio files are easier to manage for both you and Thunderstruck Canada. CDs need to be burned – which takes time and money, labeled correctly, and then turned into our staff who then need to organize the CDs against all the other studios. Playing CDs requires a process of loading and unloading and CDs are also prone to skipping and sometimes not working at all. There is also an entire process of getting CDs sorted at the end of the competition and returned to the studio. Using the same audio, you upload or turn them in on USB. They are easy to label, queued in a playlist, and we don't have to worry about them skipping...and if you are competing at Top Studio Challenge – we already have your music.
File Formats & Codecs
Please visit the bottom of our blog: History of Sound – Analog vs Digital for more information on file formats and codecs.